Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Writing Thailand's New Constitution

Pravit Rojanaphruk of The Nation interviewed Thai law prof Worachet Pakeerut of Thammasat University about the process of drafting a new constitution. Worachet calls it "backward" compared to the process for writing the 1997 Constitution. He notes that the coup leaders have stuck their noses into the drafting process ("They should have no say"). He points to the possibility that the planned referendum on the new constitution might in some sense backfire and turn into a referendum on the coup.

Reading what "Thai-style" democracy advocates have been saying, it always strikes me as if they have no concept as to why the rule of law is superior to the rule of men. Worachet delivers straight-talk on this critical point:
There is an argument that Thai people do not value the importance of a charter and, therefore, we should pay it little attention.

[The Constitution] is the highest law but it's the social force that breathes life into it. People do not think the charter is in anyway important to them.

Even after the coup some people said the charter is long dead [so we shouldn't oppose the coup]. In a way, this logic reinforces the legitimacy of solving problems by using means outside a constitutional system.

We could have instead had an election [this November] and elevated the struggle [against Thaksin Shinawatra] to another level. Yet we resorted to the old ways [like the coup of 1991].

How can we strengthen the Constitution and make it part of our political culture that we hold dear?

All parties must contribute, starting from the highest institution in the land. His Majesty the King must play a part but it's risky to make such a suggestion in Thai society.

The bad omens began in 1933 when part of the first Constitution was temporarily suspended. It started to create the feeling that this was perhaps not the supreme law. But no matter what level of crisis we face, we must try to solve it within the system.

Yet how many times did we tear the Constitution down citing previous government corruption as justification?

If such justification is to be taken seriously, then we can stage a coup every day.

In the future, Thais will think coups are a good solution whenever they face political problems. Instead of thinking about the rule of law, they'll think about the military.

I'm not sure if the folk spirit of the Thai people is that of autocracy or not, because they tend to approve of using power to solve problems.

What's even more alarming to me is the moral dichotomy between good and evil - that if you stand on the opposite side of me, you must be evil.

There will be many more coups.

You can find Thailand's 1997 Constitution here.

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